Sylvia Kampshoff is a former Debt Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions attorney having worked in Munich, London, Houston, Chicago and Sydney. After the birth of her son Tristan, she decided to follow her passion and start Kanthaka, a personal trainer on-demand App (basically Uber for personal trainers). Her vision is to revolutionize the fitness industry and make the US a happier and healthier place by giving everybody the possibility to stay fit.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I am from Munich, Germany, where I went to law school and started working as an M&A attorney at Kirkland & Ellis. As my husband and I were always passionate about traveling we moved to London after three years and thereafter to the US. As we lived in Austin before and Kirkland & Ellis had just opened a new office in Houston we knew that is where we want to be. We love Texas, the hot weather and very outdoor and friendly lifestyle.
What inspired you to start your business?
I love working out and living a healthy fit life but have difficulties to motivate myself. That is why during our time in London I started working out with a personal trainer what was way more fun for me and really kept me engaged. When we moved to Houston I wanted to find a personal trainer again but just couldn’t find an easy tool to book a trainer on short notice. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of contacting a trainer through one of the various personal trainer websites and having to wait for days for a response.
Additionally, I didn’t want to sign up with a trainer at the big box gym chains, where you have to commit for at least a year and get a trainer assigned you have to stick with having very limited availabilities. I was looking for a tool with which I could easily book vetted trainers on short notice to any location of my choice. When my son Tristan was born I decided to change my life, follow my passion and start Kanthaka to enable everybody to workout on their own schedule, anytime and anywhere they want.
Where is your business based?
Our App is life in Houston and we are launching Austin January of 2018.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I talked a lot with trainers as well as potential clients to figure out if there is really a need for our App. We figured out fast that the personal training market in its current situation is broken and people are searching for something different. Pretty quickly afterwards, we started looking for a development team and found an amazing team in India over Upwork (with who we still work together).
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
We have built both a presence on social media, as well as tried to become a part of the local fitness community, working together with brands like Lululemon or Athleta and supporting the fitness community with free events/classes.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
We saw a lot of traction by people downloading the App since the day we have launched. Our challenge at the beginning was to convert them into actual clients. We had to build up trust in the community as we were the first on-demand personal trainer App in Houston. The more active clients we got on the App who all loved the experience and shared it, the easier it got to attract new ones.
How do you stay focused?
I tend to work with a to-do list and prioritize according to the items which bring traction and clients the fastest. Also, I set myself milestones I want to achieve in a certain period of time. Talking with my husband and brainstorming with him also always helps me immensely to focus on the right workstreams. Additionally, I have some great advisors who help me stay focused.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We focus on operational excellence. All our trainers are interviewed in person, trained with by one of our team members, certified and insured. We are in a regular contact with our trainers to ensure the best service for our clients. We are a point of contact for clients 24/7, always trying to make them happy in any way possible. We want our clients to feel like they have their personal Kanthaka concierge always there for them during their fitness journey.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
We found that the App store search advertisements work very well as well as digital marketing in general. Besides that, we believe it is important to provide the best service possible to our clients and an awesome fitness experience as thereby our clients become the best brand ambassadors themselves.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Don't let anybody who never started their own company tell you what you are doing is wrong. You will receive a lot of advice. Try to find a couple of mentors you really trust and listen to and don't get distracted by every advise you get. Be self-confident when pitching for investment. You should spend 30% of your time (in case you are a sole founder) on raising money and building up relationships with investors. Keep them updated on major milestones on a regular basis (even during times you are not in fundraising mode).
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite App is Kanthaka. I book different trainers at different locations depending on where my schedule brings me. It is super easy and convenient and allows me to stay fit despite working long, unpredictable hours.
My favorite book business wise is Traction by Gabriel Weinberg. It walks you through any potential traction channel and gives you some great ideas to get started marketing your company.
I am not very active on blogs (besides the Kanthaka one:) and don’t have a favorite one.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Upwork (https://www.upwork.com), awesome tool to find great freelancers if you are working on a tight budget. Evernote (https://evernote.com) to take notes and hello sign (https://www.hellosign.com) to organize your signatures under legal agreements.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I don’t really have a role model. I follow ClassPass's success story. It is amazing what the founder, Payal Kadakia has built all based on a passion about fitness.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are looking forward to launching Austin in January of 2018 and Dallas within the first half of 2018. We want to continually strengthen our client and trainer base focused on providing the best fitness service you can find.
How can our readers connect with you?